Where did you get your start in marketing and storytelling?
I worked little jobs at my dad's radio stations and in friends' offices, and all through college doing various sales support and internships. But how people communicated well (or didn't do it well) didn't click until my first summer after graduating college.
I worked as a Tour Guide at Universal Studios Hollywood. I learned lots of facts about facades and the tram route around the studio backlot, timing, and even how to do a killer Mr. T impersonation.
That's where I learned to get my story straight so people can see what I see, and say it loudly enough for everyone on the bus to hear my message.
Some thoughts on marketing and communication?
Marketing is communicating, and communicating is our oldest skill as humans. Yet, I'm amazed at how frequently we don't do it well. We owe it to each other on a societal level to communicate with care and precision. English, in particular, is fraught with trouble for the casual user with all of those mixed meanings and passive tense that persistently undermine persuasive communication.
Embarrassing professional mis-judgments?
Clutch your pearls, but I thought Twitter was frivolous. And while some people still use it that way, I am humbled to recognize it can be really meaningful to a business, especially to a consultant.
In the 2007-2011 stretch when it was gathering steam and I was consulting very (very!) small businesses, I felt it was irresponsible to advise them to spend time on Twitter if they were not breaking even. Talk to me when you've hit your goals! I told them. I still think it's good to prioritize your energy. But they were looking at it because they thought it was free. None of these little business owners were willing to invest time or money to craft a plan, define their message or write their Tweets with any business goals in mind. If they had, I would have taken them and Twitter more seriously. They were distracted by the "new". The channel is not the thing to focus on: the message is always the thing to focus on. We did find other ways to generate sales.
What is the motivation for your fiction writing?
I have written primarily advertising copy for my career. That can be a certain kind of fiction, and the motivation is pretty clear: someone paid me.
But I have recently
added a new and improved fiction product line because I wanted to read
it. Create the art you most want to see. I picked that up from Tom
Robbins' Skinny Legs and All back in 1990, but didn't believe I could really act on it until about 2015. Thank you Ellen Cherry Charles :)
Relationships with family, and within yourself, seem to always be at the
core of my fiction writing because those are the most important things we can get
right in this life and the most frustrating.
Favorite online resource:
Wikipedia, all day long. What a marvelous wealth of info and generosity. Wiki-wow! And I appreciate that while there were several competitors early on with people trying to catalog the internet, Wikipedia burst through the paradigm of one poor schmuck typing til his fingers fell off, and decentralized it so we could all contribute. Together we make it better than the sum of any one contributor. That democracy made them ubiquitous; I have their app, I bump into them on searches, they have their images indexed so elegantly I end up there on image searches, I use it just about every time I pick up my Amazon Kindle.
Least favorite word:
"That". In 99% of the sentences we find "that" in, we can take "that" out. I'm not even sure which part of speech it is. It's a filler word, a crutch in most cases. Lighten your load, lighten your readers' load and dump it. When I was an editor in Journalism school working with younger writers in the newsroom, I was forever crossing "that" out of their copy and they were aghast! How could I be so insensitive to their creation?! They put "that" in there to fill up sentences and sound more important. Write about your subject. That is what is important. "That" is not content.
Other random skills:
And I didn't just paint little things to try it out. I designed and painted a 50-foot wide, 20-foot tall mural at my daughter's elementary school.
I've drawn as needed since I was a kid, but I've not had any formal training in painting just enthusiasm and some bewildered but supportive friends. This is in the new Environmental Science Center and is intended to illustrate different scientific concepts like the phases of the moon, four different kinds of clouds, magma uplifting to become our mountains and common animal species in Lake Tahoe.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in this business?
I really like to fix things and I enjoy people. It seemed logical as a kid to go into psychology. But I worried I would get depressed listening to other people's problems all day so I went toward writing and marketing. But to this day, the first thing I ask people is how they're doing and if they don't give me a genuine answer, I press them for 50 minutes until they are true to themselves. Then I charge them.
Something nobody would know about you:
I have an inexplicable affection for wine corks. I have been collecting corks for several years (can probably be counted in decades at this point). I had a vision to make a "cork-odile." Imagine a 3D, life-sized crocodile in the honorable cork medium. I haven't sorted out how to attach them or the infrastructure for the corkodile. But it remains a vision, and currently I have many, many, many vases and buckets filled with corks, awaiting their cork-a-dillian destiny.